As we continue our series, it is time to enter a new era in the WWF (be sure to check out WrestleMania Rewrite I-X). The days of training, saying prayers, and eating vitamins have been pushed aside for a “New Generation” but there is some attitude coming. I want to thank Marc Clair, Dave Hall, Patrick Fenton, Ben Morse, and David Vandver for contributing to this piece.
WrestleMania XI – Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart in a Submission Match for the WWF Title
Marc Clair: When looking at the WrestleMania XI card on paper, my first instinct is to yank Bam Bam Bigelow away from the LT match just to give Undertaker a proper opponent that could really work with him, unlike the slug known as King Kong Bundy. Bundy was passable as a threatening heel at WrestleMania II, but 9 years later he could barely move and just could not be taken seriously as a threat to the Dead Man. But the Bigelow-LT match was surprisingly good, and has become such a great “feel good” moment in WWF/E history that I’ll leave it alone for now. Instead, I will look to provide a proper blow off to the best feud of 1994-1995, and book Bret “The Hitman” Hart vs. Owen Hart in a Submission Match…for the WWF World Heavyweight Title!
Under my scenario, instead of the schmozz ending to the Bret-Diesel title match at Royal Rumble, I would book a simpler finish that sees Bret defeating Diesel after help from a HBK Sweet Chin Music, while younger brother Owen wins the Royal Rumble and the World Title shot. This way, we can still have the Diesel-Shawn match to blow off their feud, and give Bret-Owen the proper Rubber Match sendoff. Owen would be a credible challenger after defeating Bret at WrestleMania X and could claim that the only time Bret could beat him was by running away (the cage match at SummerSlam ’94.) The submission match would be fitting, as we could see sharpshooter vs. sharpshooter, and could even see Owen trying different submissions in desperation, like the crossface chicken wing he learned from good buddy Bob Backlund. Speaking of Backlund, just for kicks I’d have Undertaker face him instead of Bundy. How fun would it be to see old school amateur wrestler Bob Backlund running scared and trying to use single leg takedowns on the Deadman? But regardless of the undercard, I have no doubt that Bret vs. Owen at WrestleMania XI would go down as one of the greatest title matches of all time, and a proper blow off to one of the greatest feuds of all time.
WrestleMania XII – Vader vs. Diesel
Dave Hall: The WWF leading into WrestleMania 12 was in a strange position. While they had been building Shawn Michaels as the next Champion to replace Bret Hart, there had been a big hole in terms of main event heels. Throughout 1995 and into 1996, the main event picture was a little bleak. Heel turns by Mabel and Davey Boy Smith had not really made an impact, and three of the previous four Pay per Views had featured “face vs. face” main events. There were no major heels on the horizon, which did not bode well for a face champion. And then it happened. VADER debuted at the Royal Rumble and made an immediate impact. The former WCW World Champion, and the man who had been the number one heel in WCW for 3 and a half years had arrived in WWF, and started by picking a fight with Yokozuna at the Rumble, and then with president Gorilla Monsoon not long after. Here was a man who could be a major player, a legitimate threat to the future world champion. And they continued to build him up by….. placing him in a 6-man tag match at WrestleMania.
But imagine if the WWF decided to make a statement at WrestleMania. Imagine if Vader faced former WWF Champion Diesel. Two former champions, both masters of the power-bomb and with the addition of this match, it would have made Vader a legitimate and immediate threat to Shawn Michaels’ title reign. Diesel had already given his notice to Vince McMahon, so there would have been no real damage to him in losing. A victory for Vader over Diesel would have immediately elevated Vader to main event status. Vader would have been showcased against the man who had been at the top of the WWF ladder for 18 months. While Diesel may not have been the best in-ring competitor, he was a star in the eyes of the fans. And the two big-men could have had a solid brawl. It would have been more impressive, and certainly more interesting than the 6-man waste of time that he was actually in. And it would have certainly helped make WrestleMania 12 a little more memorable.
WrestleMania 13 – Vader vs. Mankind
Ryan Howard: This was the Mania that I was flipping back & forth about. Do I choose Bret/Shawn II or do I choose a match that really never took place in the WWF, but had quite a history building between the two competitors? The most random contest on the WrestleMania 13 card wasn’t The Sultan getting an Intercontinental title shot, but it was Vader & Mankind getting a Tag Team title shot. The team of Owen Hart & the British Bulldog were the top team for quite a few months, but neither man was really considered a brawler. When the end result was a double count out due to both teams brawling, it left me even more confused. A feud could’ve been worked with Vader vs. Mankind, with one key element in the middle, Paul Bearer.
Starting at the Royal Rumble, Vader & Mankind were both in the later stages of the Rumble match and it would’ve made sense to have both men take out Terry Funk in his random appearance, then have Vader, Bearer’s newest client, to dump out Mankind, his older one. Still keep Vader in the Final Four Match the next month, with Mankind left stewing over Paul favoring Vader, even have him come out to try to help but cost Vader his chance at the WWF title. Both men could come to blows the following night on Raw and we could be on our way to a Mania match with Bearer right between them, having to make a choice. With a Street Fight and I Quit match already on the card and this being before the word “Hardcore” was used in the WWF, these men could still have an absolute war without a stipulation. This wouldn’t be so much about a match, but more so a fight, a fight I wish would’ve happened.
WrestleMania XIV – Marc Mero vs. Steve Blackman
Marc Clair: WrestleMania XIV was by far the most difficult card to find a match to rebook. The card featured only eight matches, nearly all of which were the logical and necessary culminations of a feuds and storylines – Austin/HBK, Undertaker/Kane, New Age Outlaws / Cactus Jack & Terry Funk, Rock / Shamrock, and HHH/Owen were all essential matches that I wouldn’t want to touch. So when searching to rebook a match, I was essentially left examining TAFKA (The Artist Formerly Known As) Goldust & Luna vs. Marc Mero & Sable and the Tag Team Battle Royal. Mero was well on the way to a heel turn here, and only briefly diverted back to being a half-assed face for this match. So I say this match gets scrapped all together, and I find Mero a more fitting opponent – perennial underrated favorite Steve Blackman! Oh, did I mention that this match is for the European Title?
So how do we get there? Firstly, I’d have the European title held up following the fiasco surrounding Owen defeating TAFKA Goldust posing as HHH for the Euro Title. I’d have Commissioner Slaughter hold up the belt and declare a tournament for the title, during which Owen and Trips could cost each other their respective matches to further fuel their rivalry. Eventually we get to a Marc Mero / Steve Blackman final. Mero can work and would be able to put on a good display for Blackman, who officials were very high on and looking to push. Well, a random tag team with Flash Funk in a battle royal is no way to get a push if you ask me. Mero could cement his heel turn by blaming Sable for the loss afterwards, putting over Blackman as a serious singles contender in the process. I’ve always had a soft spot for Steve Blackman, so I’m thrilled to use this forum to gift him a WrestleMania match worthy of his talent. Even if it is only in Place to be Nation Fantasy Booking Land.
WrestleMania XV – Val Venis vs. Billy Gunn vs. Ken Shamrock for the IC Title
Ben Morse: If Survivor Series 1998 represented the peak of Vince Russo’s storytelling prowess, WrestleMania XV a few months later may stand out as one of the early black marks. While he saw the Steve Austin/Rock main event feud through to a logical and satisfying conclusion, it almost seems like he felt the need to make up for it all across the undercard with senseless multi-person matches and last-minute switches across the board. Watching with some buddies in the basement of my parents’ house, we barely paid attention to the first two and a half hours before snapping back to life for the WWF title match.
Ironically, it wouldn’t have taken much to do damage control on this show. Billy Gunn, Ken Shamrock and Val Venis had been feuding over the Intercontinental title—and Ken’s sister, Ryan—for months while Road Dogg and Al Snow tussled over the Hardcore championship. Goldust entered the IC title hunt at the last-minute while Bob Holly subbed for Dogg out of necessity a month earlier, then to make matters worse, the New Age Outlaws won the titles the others had been chasing prior to WrestleMania, a swerve that decimated two hotly anticipated matches.
In a perfect world, the Outlaws switcheroo never happens and you get a pair of triple threat matches with Venis defending the Intercontinental title against Gunn and Shamrock, then Holly—who had earned his place—putting the Hardcore strap on the line against Snow and Dogg. I would have had Gunn and Snow both get their long-awaited championship wins here because I’m a traditionalist when it comes to blowing off title chases at Mania, but it’s not a necessity. Goldust felt so tacked on to the IC match that I would have moved him over to become D’Lo Brown’s random partner against Tag champs Jeff Jarrett and Owen Hart instead of Test, possibly giving us a better match.
Maybe still not a show to write home about, but still a little more of what we had spent the winter of 1999 waiting for.
WrestleMania 2000 – Tazz vs. Kurt Angle vs. Chris Benoit vs. Chris Jericho for the IC and European Titles
Patrick Fenton: The 1980s had the Red & Yellow of Hulkamania. The 1990s had the Pink & Black Attack that was the “Hitman” and the “New Generation.” The 2000s had the Path of Rage that was paved Orange & Black by “The Human Suplex Machine” Tazz. Well, ok, maybe not so much, but it COULD have been a LOT more special than what we were given by the WWF. Tazz was brought in on such a huge debut just a mere two months before WrestleMania 2000. A debut that saw him choke out the best rising star in the WWF at the time, Kurt Angle. That right there should have sparked a HUGE and entertaining feud that could have ended right here at this show, or even continued throughout the rest of this calendar year.
Let’s say that Kurt Angle did go one to win the Euro-Continental championship, and was put into that match that he had to defend BOTH championships. That’s a great idea, and keeps Chris Jericho and Chris Benoit in the match, as both men are rightful contenders for the championships, but let’s add Tazz into that match. Make it a four-way dance, or a “Fatal Four-Way” as the WWF likes to call it. First fall should be for the European Title, and the second fall would be for the Intercontinental Title. This is how Tazz should have been showcased at the show of the immortals, not in a hardcore battle royal. Move the T&A vs Head Cheese into the hardcore battle royal, and give this match those nine minutes, and this would be a tremendous, action-packed match for two of your important championships at the biggest show of the year. All four men would have looked great, doing what they do best. Who knows, maybe Tazz would have been more important as an in-ring competitor for some time after this show, instead of fading out of the spotlight, and into the commentary booth.
WrestleMania X-Seven – Kurt Angle vs. Triple H
Ben Morse: How do you improve arguably the greatest WrestleMania of all-time? Honestly, I don’t know that you can, and I’d be fine with leaving it unchanged, but since I did take on this challenge, I’m obligated to at least give it a go.
WWE’s hottest feud over the summer and early fall of 2000 had to be Triple H against Kurt Angle over the affections of Stephanie McMahon. Unfortunately, the questionable decision to put HHH over Angle and not pull the trigger on him turning full-fledged face—or Steph joining Kurt—killed most of the momentum. However, over the course of the winter, they certainly had the opportunity to take a mulligan and try again.
Angle defeated HHH at the Royal Rumble to retain the WWE title then lost it to the Rock a month later while his rival defeated Steve Austin but did not gain his WrestleMania title match. With both men pissed off and left out of the main event, it would have been a great opportunity for them to settle their differences once and for all with a gigantic blow-off rubber match on the biggest show of the year. The boat had probably already sailed on any McMahon involvement, particularly as they had other stuff to do that night, but these guys had enough built up hatred and chemistry to do without.
Of course we do lose the great HHH-Undertaker and Angle-Chris Benoit matches we got instead, but swap the opponents and the potential for a “respect” angle with the newly babyface “Crippler” giving it his all to take out the “Dead Man” I believe provides two solid substitutes including one that signals the culmination of a long-term storyline, something I personally love to see at WrestleMania.
WrestleMania X-8 – Hollywood Hogan vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin
Dave Hall: It was the match of the century, the match that overshadowed the main event. We saw Hogan vs The Rock – the Past vs the Future, the match that made WrestleMania X-8 memorable. I certainly remember feeling it was the spectacle that made that event. The Canadian crowd did their typical thing, and turned Hogan face in one match, leading all fans to endure what should never have happened afterwards- Hogan getting another run with the WWE Title. It is hard to consider how any match could have been better to be on this card than that one match, but what if The Rock wasn’t in that spot? What if Hollywood Hogan faced the man who was the real star of the Attitude Era? What if Hogan wrestled Stone Cold Steve Austin?
The Rock vs Hogan match was billed as the best of two generations, but the only problem with that was that Rock was always second to Stone Cold Steve Austin. It was Stone Cold who was the biggest draw since Hogan, and arguably a greater draw than Hogan. When the nWo first arrived, the first man they attacked was Austin, during his title match with Chris Jericho, and Hogan was always the lead man for the nWo It would have been the match of the millennium. Austin, the man who was forced to leave WCW once Hogan arrived; Hogan, the prodigal son of the WWE returning home. A match between the two biggest draws in the history of wrestling, and a match that would have certainly kept Hogan a heel. There is no way that the WrestleMania crowd would have turned on Austin the way they turned on Rock. A match with Hogan may have also helped ease some of Austin’s frustrations with the WWE creative team at the time. Beyond all that, a match between Austin and Hogan was a dream match that every fan of wrestling wanted to see but never got the chance. An all-out war between the two biggest stars the WWE ever produced would have drawn more viewers than any WrestleMania before that. I know I would have loved to see Austin flip Hogan off and deliver a Stunner in the middle of the ring. It would have been a fitting moment that would still be replayed to this day.
WrestleMania XIX – Shawn Michaels vs. Triple H for the World Title
Derek Cornett: WrestleMania XIX will go down as one of the best cards top to bottom. From Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jericho to the final bell between Kurt Angle and Brock Lesnar, the last five matches is one of the best wrestling series of consecutive matches ever televised. As good as this was, I wanted to change two of those five matches and build off a certain feeling that this WrestleMania could have had. With Hogan vs. Vince and Rock vs. Stone Cold, we had two long-term feuds that had a lot of juice going into them. There were years of backstory to build on with this long-term feud theme and I thought that was a perfect formula for a World Title match between Triple H and Shawn Michaels.
The build for these epic main event could have started with some long-term booking from Shawn Michaels return back in August of 2002 and his big win over Triple H at SummerSlam. This would have still led to Michaels winning the World Title at the Survivor Series in the Elimination Chamber. I would even keep Triple H beating Michaels at Armageddon in the three stages of hell match. I think these three matches led to a hot start that could have cooled for two months and then exploded come late-February. As it went down, Booker T won the 20-man battle royal to get the shot at Triple H. Simply insert Michaels into this spot all the while having his feud with Jericho steaming in the background. Michaels and Jericho could continue their feud on a secondary stage with HBK vs. HHH as the primary feud. I wouldn’t mind seeing HBK win the title at this event but that may have taken away from Brock’s big victory later in the night. If he doesn’t win, I wouldn’t mind seeing Jericho come out and cost him the title. This could still lead to the Backlash 2003 six-man contest. I felt that these two could perform on such a high level and this could have been the perfect event to add to the overall feel of the show with the historic feuds culminating on this March night in Seattle.
WrestleMania XX – Shawn Michaels vs. The Rock
Derek Cornett: Very few times to the stars really align in the world of professional wrestling. The moment where two huge stars of two different eras could come together and have one of the most legendary matches in the history of the sport could have happened on this night in the Garden. WrestleMania 20 was a spectacular piece of wrestling history and meant so much to what would become of the WWE and the future of sports entertainment. The proposed match I would put into this card would be between Shawn Michaels and the Rock! Two of the most entertaining and egocentric characters in professional wrestling and MSG deserved to see these two men FINALLY meet right here on the biggest stage of them all. Right off the top of my head, Batista and Flair could have been bumped to the Fatal Four-way tag title match to replaced Cade and Jindrak, Foley and Orton could have gone one on one, and then Triple H vs. Benoit would have been an entertaining one on one contest. So how would this epic encounter come to be?
It would be pretty simple for these two guys to verbally build up this encounter. Let’s head back to the Royal Rumble and Triple H drawing with Michaels to retain the World Title. The Rock hasn’t been around since he lost to Goldberg at Backlash, so his return to team with Foley could have been used, perhaps in a six-man contest with he and HBK and Foley teaming up against Evolution. HBK and Rock could have had two big of egos to work together. It’s from this moment that you simply let them talk their way to the Garden to see who really is the biggest ICON in the WWE. In terms of winning and losing… this one could have gone either way. With Michaels having a future in the WWE and Rock leaving for 7 years following this contest… I would go with HBK getting the victory and securing his spot RIGHTFULLY above the Rock. I have a feeling that this one could have blown the roof off of the Garden and gone down as one of the premiere events in the history of WrestleMania.
Some pretty interesting contests there. Needless to say, some of these could have made some historic “WrestleMania Moments.” Thank you for joining us for the second part of this three part series. When we return for the third edition, we will be tackling the “John Cena” era of the WWE and take a look at the match that should be happening at WrestleMania XXX on April the 6th that isn’t. Thank you for tuning and be sure to check out the third edition right here on the Place to Be Nation!